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“We’re Not Post-Racial Yet”: The Demons Of Our Racist Past Still Haunt Us

So we’re not post-racial yet.

Instead, we are preoccupied with race, chafing along the color line, possessed of wildly divergent views of authority, justice and equality. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in the aftermath of widely publicized police shootings and the attacks on Dallas police officers, 60 percent of Americans believe race relations are growing worse.

Some among us lay the blame for that, absurdly, at the feet of President Barack Obama, who was supposed to usher in an era of peace, harmony and racial healing — at least according to some utterly naive predictions made at the time of his first election. Instead, it seems, his presence in the Oval Office precipitated a furious backlash, a tidal wave of resentment from those whites who see his ascendance as a sign of their decline.

But that’s not the president’s fault. He has studiously tried to avoid stirring the cauldron of race, to bridge the color chasm, to unite the warring American tribes. His only crime is in symbolizing the anxieties of those white Americans who see a black man in power as the bete noire of their nightmares.

It makes more sense to blame the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump, for these troubling times. He enters his nominating convention in Cleveland as the same divisive bully he has been throughout the campaign — a man singularly ill-suited to lead a diverse nation.

Trump has not just pandered to the prejudices of his mostly white supporters; he has also encouraged them with his incendiary promises to limit immigration and his vicious insults of the president, starting with his claim that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Trump works assiduously to keep us divided, a state that sharpens his political advantage.

But the simple truth is that neither Obama nor Trump created this moment. This unruly time has been more than 200 years in the making. We have not yet put away the old ghosts, so they continue to haunt us.

Take the police shootings that have prompted protests around the country during the last several days. There is nothing new about police violence toward black citizens, nothing unusual about bias in the criminal justice system, nothing unexpected about the institutional racism that conspires to imprison black Americans disproportionately.

Just read Douglas Blackmon’s “Slavery by Another Name,” an account of law enforcement practices in the Deep South following the Civil War. White business owners demanded low- to no-cost labor, and they got it by imprisoning black men unfairly and putting them to work.

To justify their rank oppression and their state-sanctioned violence — black people were lynched with impunity for more than a century — powerful whites trafficked in awful stereotypes about black criminality. Those old biases — those hateful stereotypes — didn’t just fade away with the civil rights movement.

As President Obama put it during his moving and elegant speech memorializing the Dallas dead, “We also know that centuries of racial discrimination, of slavery, and subjugation, and Jim Crow — they didn’t simply vanish with the law against segregation.”

Still, there are many who would dismiss Obama, whose political views demand they grant him no legitimacy. Maybe they’d listen instead to Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who rose to the floor of the Senate on Wednesday to give a deeply personal account of his maltreatment at the hands of police officers.

Scott is a rock-solid conservative who rarely agrees with the president about anything. He is also black, and, as he noted, that’s enough to kindle suspicion from some law enforcement authorities.

“In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers, not four, not five, not six, but seven times, in one year, as an elected official. Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reasons just as trivial,” he said.

That’s a powerful testament to the ways in which the old ghosts still haunt us, even in an age of a black president and two black U.S. senators. We are not post-racial yet, and until we can confront and exorcise the demons of our past, we will never be.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, July 17, 2016

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Institutional Racism, White Americans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Ben Carson Is White America’s Perfect Black Candidate”: Murdoch’s Tweet Reflects View Held By Many Conservative Whites

To hear Rupert Murdoch tell it, what America needs is a “real black president.” In a string of tweets Wednesday, the chairman and CEO of the News Corp signaled his support for Dr. Ben Carson, who is among the top tier of 2016 GOP candidates. The media mogul’s use of the word “real” was met with outrage on social media and particularly offensive to the sitting president (Murdoch quickly apologized).

Murdoch might be a troll with a billion dollars, but he is not alone in celebrating Carson’s political fortunes. In recent weeks, on the heels of controversial remarks about Muslims, a head-scratching deluge of money—said to be in the millions—poured into Carson’s campaign coffers. He has watched his poll numbers triple. He bounced from one warmly lit television studio to another—unfamiliar territory for a man most renowned for his heroics in a Baltimore operating room.

Can he actually win the Republican primary? The answer—depending on whom you ask—varies between “damn right, he can” and “hell-to-the-nawl.”

“Everywhere pundits keep underestimating Ben Carson,” tweeted Murdoch. “But [the] public understand[s] humility as admirable, listen to the multi-faceted strong message.”

Carson is quick to confess that he is no politician. His genial tone is so low and comforting that it’s easy to miss how closely he aligns with far right-wing activists. Though his style could not be more different than Trump’s over-the-top ranting, both men appear to be benefitting from widespread Republican angst about topping the ticket with another D.C. insider. Grassroots activists are looking for someone they can trust in the proverbial foxhole: one who won’t bend on Republican principles. No one expected the soft-spoken, retired neurosurgeon to eclipse former Florida governor Jeb! Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio.

“I don’t think he has ever met or had a conversation with [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell or [Speaker of the House John] Boehner,” said conservative radio host and commentator Armstrong Williams, who serves as Carson’s business manager and personal adviser. “The establishment doesn’t know what to do with him. He’s baffling to them.”

That may well be, but the lure of a Carson candidacy could not be more appealing to some party leaders, Republican influencers like Murdoch, and rank-and-file voters—all of whom have been looking for a way to attract more non-white voters. For them, Carson is the perfect ambassador: an American success story, who spares no breath in deriding liberal economic policies, is ardently pro-life, and knows his way around a Bible.

These people will tell you that Carson, raised by a single mother in hard-knock Detroit, is proof positive that the American Dream is alive and kicking, much like the conjoined twins he brilliantly separated as a surgeon. “You can’t question his intellect. You can’t question his accomplishments,” Williams continued. “He loves this country. He’s the genuine article and people are in tune to that.”

If Williams is right, his candidate is polling “around 17-18 percent” among black voters. In a general election, that’s game over. Those numbers come as no surprise to Joy-Ann Reid, a national news correspondent for MSNBC.

“I think the black community, writ large, and particularly those of us who are Generation X and older, viewed Dr. Carson as an icon,” Reid recalled. “[He was] a favorite son who made good, and reflected glowingly on the potential for black folk to excel, even from humble beginnings.”

However, if history is any indication, black conservatives do not draw any more support from the black community than their white counterparts. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) trounced his Democratic opponent to become the first African-American senator elected from the South since Reconstruction. But he did it with marginal backing from black voters. That hasn’t stopped Scott from becoming a critical voice on key issues, such as criminal justice reform and police body cameras, and working to earn the support that has eluded him.

“Scott is the real deal,” said former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers, who is a Democrat. “Ben Carson is no Tim Scott.”

To be sure, there is a solid conservative streak running through the African-American community, especially among people of faith. Many, however, still consider the Republican brand toxic and find many tenets of the national platform antagonistic to their interests. Then too, the GOP owes much of its modern-day success as a national party to its stronghold in the South, gained largely through acts of defiance against the Civil Rights movement.

Against that backdrop, Reid is skeptical about how much black support Carson can actually deliver.

“Now, I think many black Americans look upon Dr. Carson with a mix of puzzlement and disappointment,” Reid said. “The fact that he has made himself nationally prominent by insulting the first black president of the United States, and that he is now building on that with strange utterance after strange utterance leaves many African-Americans just shaking their heads.”

That might not be the real point, Reid said. As Murdoch’s messages seem to suggest, Carson may in fact hold the keys to attracting more white voters who may have been previously turned off by some of the more extreme, virulently racist voices in the discourse.

“Ben Carson is the ideal candidate of color for the right,” Reid said. “He rejects race as a construct for explaining social and economic mobility, just as white conservatives do; and he even rejects the public programs that helped his own family survive, mirroring the donor class of his party who want to get rid of those programs.”

“[Carson is a] vessel that alleviates some aversion guilt,” Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher asserted. “Most mainstream, middle-class Americans don’t want to vote for racists. There is something inoculating about Carson.”

Williams rejects that and says Carson’s appeal within the GOP is based on the fact that “his life story is more like most Americans’ than anyone who is seeking the GOP nomination.”

While Trump is out “Making America Great Again,” the man who hopes to topple the current GOP frontrunner is quietly holding a roving tent revival of the party faithful. In at least one national survey, Carson now leads the billionaire casino magnate by seven points.

Yes, it’s too soon to take a victory lap around an Iowa cornfield. Though, maybe somebody should gas up the truck just in case. And while they are at it, they should change Murdoch’s Twitter password.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Rupert Murdoch, White Conservatives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Same Weary Tune”: Steve Scalise And The Right’s Ridiculous Racial Blame Game

In much the way one used to savor the sight of some lying schmuck be game-set-match cornered by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, I love watching conservatives try to explain away race scandals. Like the be-Wallaced lying schmuck, they know deep down they’ve had it. But quite unlike the schmuck, and this is the fun part, they never run up the white flag; indeed quite the opposite. They go on the attack, and it’s just a comical and pathetic thing to see.

Before we get to all that, permit me a brief reflection on this matter of Steve Scalise. Let’s allow him the error in judgment, or whatever tripe it is he’s peddling, of speaking to a David Duke-related white supremacist group in 2002. It’s hard to believe, but let’s go ahead and be generous about it.

I think we should find it a little harder, though, to be generous about his vote as a state legislator in 2004 against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the state of Louisiana. His was one of six votes against the day, which received 90 votes in the affirmative. And in case you think he may have rushed to the floor from the bathroom and accidentally hit the wrong button, he had cast the same ‘no’ vote in 1999. No error in judgment explains that. He was part of an extreme, racialized white faction in the Louisiana state house that was clearly dead-set against honoring King. (In which goal he is hardly outside the Southern mainstream; some states in Dixie still sometimes celebrate King on the same day they honor Robert E. Lee.)

So it’s hardly shocking that Scalise spoke to the group. Indeed it would have been more shocking if he hadn’t. This is a state, after all, where Duke, in his statewide race for governor in 1991, received a majority of the white vote. In fact, a large majority, of 55 percent, meaning that even though Edwin Edwards walloped Duke by 23 points, a near-landslide percentage of white Louisianans voted to make an avowed white supremacist their governor. Yeah, it was a long time ago. But how different would things have been 11 years later, when Scalise attended the Duke event? By attending, he wasn’t doing anything that would have been seen as controversial by most of his white constituents; indeed most of them would have endorsed it.

Some of the defenses of Scalise have been amusing and have followed the expected pattern, like redstate.org finding a black Democratic Bayou pol to avow that Scalise didn’t have—you guessed it—“a racist bone in his body.” But the fun starts when conservatives stop playing defense and go on offense. Here are the three main tropes, which apply not only in this situation but every time we’re met with one of these revelations.

1. But Al Sharpton is the real racist!

Nobody has to lecture me about how Sharpton has played racial politics in New York. I wrote some harsh columns about him back in the day, having to do with the way he played ball in New York City mayoral politics, especially in the 2001 election. But to call him or any black man “the real racist” is to evince complete, and I’d say willed, stupidity about what racism is. Racism isn’t just a person’s feelings and attitudes (and I don’t think Sharpton is “a racist” even by that definition); it is, more importantly, a set of power relationships, legal and economic, that kept and to some extent still keeps one group of people (and they aren’t white) from enjoying the full promise of American life. That’s what racism is, and Al Sharpton just ain’t its practitioner.

2. But hey, we elected Tim Scott.

Right. You did (he’s the African-American conservative Senator from South Carolina). And J.C. Watts back in the 1990s. And there was Allen West. And now’s there’s Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas. Bravo. That’s five. Congratulations! Meanwhile, white liberals have helped elect dozens of blacks to high office—mayors, members of Congress, a few senators and governors, and now a president.

This is supposed to “prove” that conservatives aren’t racist, and I would readily agree that on an individual level, most probably are not, and they’re willing to vote for a black candidate provided he or she has the proper right-wing views. Fine. Elect 20 more and then you’ll start to have a case. But they won’t elect 20 more, for many years anyway, because 1) the conservative agenda appeals only to about five percent of African Americans, and rightly so, since it stands in opposition to virtually every policy change that has improved black life in this country over the past 50 years, and 2) the Republican Party puts very little effort into recruiting black candidates and adherents, something the Democratic Party has been doing—at no small electoral cost to itself, by the way, but because it was the right thing to do—for 40 or 50 years.

3. B-b-but Robert Byrd!

Ah, my favorite of them all. Amazing how people can still haul this one out with a straight face. Yes, Byrd—dead four-and-a-half years now—was a Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. And his last known affiliation with the Klan was almost 70 years ago, in 1946. And yes, he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But as everyone knows, he went on to say—not once but many times—that that was the greatest error of his career by far. As long ago as the early 1970s, he had gone on to support most civil rights-related legislation. He endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 in May, when Hillary Clinton was still technically in the race and just after Clinton had walloped Obama in the West Virginia primary. Byrd could very easily have gotten away with endorsing Clinton, justifying it as the overwhelmingly clear will of the people he represented. But what he did was reasonably brave and freighted with all the symbolism of which he was well aware.

And saliently for present purposes, and in contrast to Scalise, here’s what Byrd had to say about a national King holiday back in 1983, when Ronald Reagan was still opposing it: “I’m the only one who must vote for this bill.” The only one. There’s no missing what he meant by that. And the italics were his, not mine.

I suspect that somewhere down there in the Freudian precincts of their minds, the Byrd-invokers from Limbaugh on down know this, and it’s what they hate about Byrd most of all: The very sincerity of his repentance makes him a capitulator to the liberal elite and a traitor to his race. But they can’t say that in polite company, so they keep whipping a horse that’s been dead for at least 40 years.

And they’ll probably whip it for another 40, unless demographics overwhelm them sometime between now and then, but they’ll resist that as long as they can too. There’ll be more Steve Scalises, and every time, the right-wing orchestra will strike up the same weary tune.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 2, 2014

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Actions Speak For Themselves”: Talking About Race Is No Black-And-White Matter

When Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) remarked last week that some of the opposition to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is “maybe he’s of the wrong color,” he was just saying out loud what many people believe. And no, he wasn’t calling Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) a “racist.”

Believing that some of the Republican and tea party opposition to Obama has to do with his race is not, I repeat not, the same as saying that anyone who disagrees with the nation’s first black president is racist.

Speaking Wednesday at a sparsely attended Senate commerce committee hearing, Rockefeller said this subject is “not something you’re meant to talk about in public.” He’s retiring from the Senate at the end of the year and, well, he’s a Rockefeller, so I imagine he feels free to talk about anything he likes.

Johnson was the only Republican senator in the room when Rockefeller made the remark. He took umbrage, telling Rockefeller, “I found it very offensive that you would basically imply that I’m a racist because I oppose this health-care law.” He later added, “I was called a racist. I think most people would lose their temper, Mr. Chairman.”

But Rockefeller didn’t call him a racist. Nor did he “play the race card,” as Johnson accused him of doing.

My purpose here is not to convince everyone that Rockefeller is right about the massive GOP resistance to Obama — although I certainly agree with him — but rather to consider the things we say when we want to avoid talking about race. “You called me a racist” and “You played the race card” have become all-purpose conversation stoppers.

Whenever I write about race, some readers react with one or the other of these end-of-discussion criticisms. Some people believe, or pretend to believe, that mentioning race in almost any context is “playing the race card.” Nearly 400 years of history — since the first Africans landed at Jamestown in 1619 — amply demonstrate that this view is either Pollyannaish or deeply cynical. We will never get to the point where race is irrelevant if we do not talk about the ways in which it still matters.

As for the “called-me-a-racist” charge, I go out of my way not to do that. All right, I did make an exception for Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling — I wrote that they were not “the last two racists in America” — but I think most people would agree that I was on solid ground. Their own words and actions proved the point.

In general, I try to focus on what a person does or says rather than speculate on what he or she “is.” How can I really know what’s in another person’s heart?

Is it true, as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban opined, that everyone is a little bit racist? Beats me. I know that psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists have written sheaves of peer-reviewed papers about implicit or unconscious bias, and I have no reason to doubt this research. But no generalized finding says anything definitive about a given individual.

In the end, all we can do is look at what the individual does, listen to what he or she says and then draw conclusions about those words and deeds.

I’m reminded of a tea party rally at the Capitol four years ago when Congress was about to pass the Affordable Care Act. I can’t say that the demonstrators who hissed and spat at members of the Congressional Black Caucus were racists — but I saw them committing racist acts. I can’t say that the people holding “Take Back Our Country” signs were racists — but I know this rallying cry arose after the first African American family moved into the White House.

I believe Rockefeller was justified in looking at the vehemence and implacability of Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act and asking whether the president’s race is a factor. I believe there are enough words and deeds on the record to justify Rockefeller’s subsequent comment that race “is a part of American life . . . and it’s a part — just a part — of why they oppose absolutely everything that this president does.”

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in Congress, said it was “ridiculous” to think GOP opposition to the health-care reforms had anything to do with race.

Referring to Rockefeller, Scott added: “I can’t judge another man’s heart.” On this, at least, we agree.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 26, 2014

May 27, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Boldly Ahead Of His Time”: South Carolina Republicans Snub Desegregation Judge

Of all the names of American heroes you probably don’t know, Julius Waties Waring has to rank near the top of the list. Waring was a judge in South Carolina in the mid-20th century. He’s famous to those who know for many courageous stands, but he’s probably best known for writing in one opinion that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” That was in 1951, three years before Brown v. Board of Education. In Charleston, South Carolina. Now that’s a set of stones, no?

Charleston these days is a gorgeous and ever more cosmopolitan city where, if you pick your spots carefully—the art galleries, certain restaurants—you can run into more Democrats than Republicans, maybe. But Chucktown has been molasses-slow to acknowledge the brave legacy of Waring. Finally this month, he got his due. A statue was dedicated outside the same federal courthouse building where he heard his cases.

Everyone of course came. Oh, wait. Everyone didn’t come. Some Democrats showed up, led by Eric Holder. But no local Republican of any note came.

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Sen. Lindsey Graham had another event he’d planned “months before.” Rep. Mark Sanford, the Appalachian trail-hopping ex-governor who now represents the city in Congress, spent the day in Washington. (It was a Friday.) And the best excuse of all goes to Tim Scott, the junior senator after Graham, who is African-American. Scott had some meetings, and then “some personal things that needed attending.” He at least did send an aide.

If this seems like a small, so-what kind of thing to you, I submit two thoughts. First, you’re maybe not familiar enough with Waring’s career. He made it to the federal bench in 1942. He made, for a few years, no unusual rulings, although being on the bench did bring him face to face with his city and state’s official segregation in a way that simply being a prosperous attorney had not. He began by ending segregation in his courtroom. Somewhere in there he divorced his first wife, a Charleston girl, and took up with and married a Connecticut woman, who may have influenced his views. He issued an opinion holding that the state had to pay black teachers the same as it paid whites, and another ordering that the University of South Carolina law school admit black students, or that the state open a truly equal law school for African-Americans.

In 1948, Waring ended the state Democratic Party’s “white primary” and ruled that Charleston’s “Negroes” were entitled to “full participation in [Democratic] Party affairs.” The party had to let them enroll and vote, which they did, 35,000 strong, in that year’s primary elections. (Yes, as conservatives will gleefully note as if they’re scoring a point by mentioning 80-year-old and no longer relevant history, the Democratic Party was the racist party at the time.)

Then in 1951 came his famous dissent in Briggs v. Elliott, in which he wrote the sentence I quote above. Waring’s famous sentence came from his dissent—that is to say, by 2-1, the three-judge federal panel upheld South Carolina’s segregation. But the Supreme Court agreed to hear Briggs, which it then combined into Brown. When the high court ruled in Brown, the Charleston circuit court, of course, reversed itself. So Waring was boldly ahead of his time, and he provided the jurisprudential basis for Brown by being the first-ever federal judge to say, plainly and straightforwardly, that segregated schools were wrong and that “separate but unequal” was a practical impossibility and a pernicious lie.

So he was a huge figure. Charleston had rejected him in part because he rejected it. He retired shortly after his Briggs ruling and moved with his wife to New York City, of all lamentable places, obviously wanting to have nothing to do with Charleston, the South, or any of it. But now the city has finally decided to honor its own, so let’s not pretend no one down there understands the importance of what he did.

The second thought I submit is that while politicians do indeed have scheduling commitments that arise months in advance, they also cancel them regularly to go do something else. I’ve been on the business end of some of those cancellations myself. So Graham, Scott, and Sanford could have found a way to make it to Charleston if it really mattered to them.

I am not saying that the fact that they didn’t go makes them racists. That would be unfair in Graham’s and Sanford’s case, and kind of preposterous in Scott’s case. I am saying, however, that it seems as if they didn’t go because, well, no one they knew and cared about wanted them to go. For Graham, certainly, locked in a primary fight against Tea Partiers, but really for any South Carolina Republican no good could possibly come of attending a celebration of one of the state’s most important liberals.

The presence of Holder, Mr. Fast and Furious himself, only made things worse. Why, imagine. What with everyone having cameras on them these days, someone might have snapped a picture of one of the Republicans shaking Holder’s hand! So it’s not a reflection on the men—although it is that—so much as it is on the modern GOP, Palmetto State Branch. And it’s shameful.

Meanwhile, across our United States, schools are resegregating at a record clip, thanks to the Republican appointees who constitute a Supreme Court majority that believes trying to desegregate schools by edict is nearly as malevolent as the old practice of segregating them. The resegregation is happening faster, surprise surprise, down South than anywhere else. What they seem to need are more tributes to figures like Waring, and Republicans in particular are the people who need to attend them.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Lindsey Graham, Segregation | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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